Results tagged ‘ Ron Gardenhire ’

Gardy: More Than Ever

With the Twins cruising through a competitively useless September, there is one “big picture” thing I worry about more than any other: the possibility of manager Ron Gardenhire’s posterior region warming a bit in terms of job security.

Now, I have never been an unconditional Gardy supporter.  I’ve questioned his playoff managing many a time, as well as his proficient use of weak “getaway day” lineups.  However, I strongly feel that he still remains the right manager for this ballclub.

Gardy has always preached “fundamentals” and this year has clearly shown how important those little things are.  Going forward, this team may need a lot of guidance for the youngsters, and I think Gardy does that as well (if not better) than any manager in baseball.

Put it this way: With a few healthy “studs” and more time to train the young guys, I am confident that our skipper can turn this ship back around in the right direction in a hurry.

I just hope he’ll be given the opportunity and nothing crazy comes down from the front office.

Notes:

Strange Item 1: In early July, I attended two Twins games at Chicago’s Cell, with both teams still battling to get into the division race.  The Twins owned the Sox at that time.  Fast-forward two months, and both teams are now essentially playing out the string.  The Sox now own us, as well.

Strange Item 2: Empty seats at Target Field.  Yes, it’s the first “school night” of the year and a makeup game at that, but those green seats sure look strange amid two seasons of near-perpetual sellouts.  Unfortunately, much more green may be showing once the Vikings kick into full gear.

Preview (58-83, 5th, 0.5 GB KCR): Jake Peavy (6-7, 5.21) vs. Liam Hendriks (Major League Debut)

It All Comes Out In The Wash (AKA The Truth About Capps)

On Saturday night, the Twins lost a game they should have won.  On Sunday afternoon, the Twins did roughly the same to the Brew Crew to take the crazy series.  Of course, it took Glen Perkins relieving Matt Capps in the ninth to lock down the final outs.

I am completely bamboozled as to why Capps has so much support from all sides.  The team loves him, Gardy seems to adore him, the media (by and large) give him a free pass, and even Dick and Bert were sticking up for him today.  My take on Capps is a bit different:  I’ll even go so far as to say that this guy…

…was a better closer overall than Capps.

Now, I don’t think that Capps is beyond usefulness.  He could be useful as a setup-type reliever, or a “seventh inning guy”.  However, he just doesn’t have either the physical stuff (like a prime Joe Nathan) or the presence to fake it (like Rauch).  I just wonder when we are going to figure this out for good.

Preview (36-46, 4th, 4.5 GB CWS): David Price (8-6, 3.43) vs. Brian Duensing (5-7, 4.69)

The Same Mistake

Last night at Target Field, I had an upper-deck, bird’s-eye view to one of what had to be the biggest Twins collapses in recent memory.  Aside from the obvious blame on Matt Capps for not really getting anyone important out in the ninth inning, this game was lost by our manager.  What makes it even more painful is the fact that, earlier in the game, the opposing manager of the Milwaukee Brewers made the exact same mistake…

In the early innings, the Twins absolutely blasted Brewers starter Narveson.  Cuddy and Danny V. hit back-to-back jacks to almost an identical spot at one point, and the Twins coasted to a 7-0 lead.  At one point, with the Twins up 4-0, Narveson had thrown almost 100 pitches, given up 11 hits, and yet the Brewer bullpen was JUST STARTING to get loose.  I figured that the inability to get a reliever into the game who could get outs would be the Brewers’ undoing.

Sadly, I was quite mistaken, and the shoe ended up firmly planted on the other foot.  Leading 7-4 going into the bottom of the ninth, “closer” Matt Capps allowed four runs to give the Brewers the lead and eventual victory.  While, to be honest, I am not all that surprised about Capps, as I believe he is the most overrated pitcher on our entire team, what absolutely perplexes me is why Gardy would leave him in the game for so long?

If you know anything about Capps, you know that when me melts down, every single fan in the ballpark knows it.  He’s a control pitcher with no dominant pitch (not exactly a closer repetoire, to be sure), so when the control isn’t present, it gets ugly quick and doesn’t end for a while.  Kind of like if Nick Blackburn doesn’t have his sinker; you KNOW he will struggle.

So, with the game hanging in the balance and potentially Joe Nathan or Phil Dumatrait ready to come in and (at the very least) secure a tie ballgame going into the home half of the ninth, Gardy sticks with Capps who promptly gives up a single and the game with it.  If anyone has one rational reason why Capps was allowed to pitch after allowing the tying run, please let me know.  To add insult to injury, Dumatrait then came in and got Prince Fielder to ground out on one pitch.

I’m sorry to say it, Gardy, but this one is on you.  Everyone makes mistakes, so let’s move on and try to take the series today, but when everyone in the ballpark knows the tide has turned and the pitcher is rattled, it is YOUR job to get him off that mound pronto.  Please do not let the “traditional closer role” dictate your thinking.  Ditto for “matchups”.  Capps needed to be removed, I don’t care if Jim Hoey is coming out of that pen (a profound and terrible statement in and of itself).

Preview (35-46, 4th, 5.5 GB CWS): Zack Greinke (7-3, 5.63) vs. Nick Blackburn (6-6, 3.64)

The Mauer Effect

Memorial Day weekend is often used as the first “benchmark” in a long baseball season.  Which teams are strong, which are weak, who may be sellers at the break, who may be gearing up for a mid-season trade.

Usually, the running joke here in Twins Territory is that the Kansas City Royals are usually making winter vacation plans at about this time.  Well, the Royals ARE in fourth place in the AL Central and more than a few games below .500, but there’s something this year that makes the joke quite a bit less funny: the Royals are 6-7 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins.

So far this season on this blog, I have lamented the terrible play and given a few opinions of my own on it.  I would like to add one more here, known possibly as the “Joe Mauer Effect”:

Clearly, the biggest reason for the Twins’ struggles has been the time lost to injuries to key players.  There’s no debating that fact.  However, I wonder if perhaps the potential “babying” (the word goes in quotes because nobody seems to know exactly what transpires with him on a day-to-day basis) of star catcher Joe Mauer isn’t creating a tinge of bitterness in the clubhouse that translates over onto the field.

A baseball clubhouse, besides the crass camaraderie and checkbook amounts, is no different than any other workplace.  If one person is getting better treatment than others, and those others feel that that treatment is not well-deserved, a bitter attitude can poison the work environment.  Some people can put that bitterness behind them and be abject professionals, while others let it stew and bleed over into their work habits.

I’m not accusing the Twins of anything, as I have never stepped foot into their pre- or post-game clubhouse and thus cannot pass judgement.  However, it’s just something to think about as the weird injuires (and losses) keep piling up.

What the Twins have on their side, though, is Ron Gardenhire.

While I have–in the past–criticized some of Gardy’s on-field decisions, I do not question for one moment that he is one of (if not THE) best player-relations manager in the game today.  He demands respect for the game, and if he doesn’t get it you won’t play for him all that much longer.

I hope this “Mauer Effect” isn’t seeping through the Twins clubhouse on a daily basis, but like I said, it is worth mentioning.  Of course, as is always the case in professional sports, if Mauer comes back and hits .350, all will be forgiven.  Let’s hope against hope that something similar transpires to give the team a bit of a spark this season.

Notes:

-Kubel and Thome put on DL today.  Oy.

Preview (17-37, 5th, 7.5 GB KCR): Anthony Swarzak (0-2, 3.60) vs. Sean O’Sullivan (2-4, 6.75)

Who’s On Third?

One of the things that has kind of been funny to watch this season is the complete 180 degree philosophy of coaching third base…

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For the past few years (ever since Al Newman left, I believe) Scott Ulger coached third and become notorious for getting guys thrown out by feet, not inches.  Gardy usually praised Scotty’s aggressiveness, but this year Ulger is bench coach, with Steve Liddle manning the hot corner box:

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Liddle (at least so far) has been the polar opposite, throwing up stop signs like a middle school crossing guard.

To be honest, I don’t know which approach is best.  There’s nothing worse than getting a key run thrown out at the dish by a mile, but having an inning snuffed with a man on third is exasperating as well.  I think that 3B-coach is just one of those spots where turnover is the name of the game.  Whereas Jerry White will coach 1B forever under Gardy…

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…the guy at the hot corner is under so much more pressure to make those split-second decisions correctly.

It isn’t as easy as it looks (!):

 

The Cowboy

The Twins lost again to the Red Sox today (and looked pathetic doing it), so instead of evaluating that pitiful performance, I’m going to take my anger out on a different source:

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Yep…”Cowboy” Joe West, major league umpire.  I know that major league players and managers get fined for criticizing umpires, so writing this makes me look over my shoulder a bit, but consider:

On Friday night, Joe West interjects himself into the Terry Francona row:

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On Saturday afternoon, he calls a runner out at second base (trying to steal) when the batter at home plate had drawn ball four.

Earlier today, a Jason Kubel fair ball down the right field line at Fenway Park clips him, turning an easy extra-base hit into a single.

Now, from what I have always understood, umpires are supposed to be “seen but not heard”.  In fact, they really shouldn’t be seen whatsoever, either.  Of course, I realize that their job is much more difficult than anybody gives them credit it for (look what happened to Jim Joyce last season), but this Joe West just seems to rub me the wrong way.  Same with our manager, as Gardy won’t even look at him anymore.

My two hopes for tomorrow: 1. A Twins win, so they can avoid another series loss; and 2. A game with the only mention of Mr. West being his pregame introduction.

Preview (12-20, 4th, 3.5 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (2-4, 4.41) vs. Josh Beckett (2-1, 2.35)

Well, This Is Just “Sick”…

9456_sick_woman_with_the_flu_walkin.pngIn my previous post, I made the point that part of the reason why the Twins are struggling is because their young pitchers haven’t panned out as planned.  That is without a doubt part of the reason, but the main thing right now is injuries…plain and simple.

We’ve never been a team with a lot (or even a little) depth, so more than one long-term injury and all of a sudden guys like Hughes, Tolbert, Tosoni, and Butera are expected to hit at a major-league level and win games.  Nope.

With Mauer, Young, Thome, Nathan, and Nishioka all struggling through various stages of convalescence, the talent level just isn’t what it needs to be.  As much as Gardy can opine about “finding a way to win”, the reality is that with the kind of lineups we have been putting up the last few weeks, we shouldn’t expect to win.

The good news: Injuries heal.

The bad news: It takes time…do we have enough of it?

Strong Lineage

215521_10150168134729841_45991614840_6374971_658818_n.jpgWow…what a great picture.

The first thought that comes to mind is “who was the better manager?”, but I don’t think the answer really even matters.  Tom Kelly brought a “fundamentals” approach to MN, and Gardy has simply continued that tradition.  That consistency has allowed the Twins to build such a fine organization over the past two decades.

I found another pic that does show the main difference between Gardy and TK:

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TK was almost always a calming presence, while Gardy brings a bit more “fire & brimstone” to the dugout.  Other than that, though, both managerial philosophies were the same: learn the fundamentals, respect the game, hustle and have fun.

Gardy Finally Gets It

ron-gardenhire-minnesota-twins-mlb.jpgOld news, I know, but I just wanted to make sure to congratulate Ron Gardenhire on his 2010 manager of the year award.  After taking second place SO MANY times in this category, he finally pulled in the well-deserved hardward for guiding the Twins to the Central Division championship this season.

Gardy has one thorn in his side: beating the Yankees.  Other than that inexplicable almost complete failure, he is the best manager a team could ask for.  He loves baseball, knows his stuff, is great at keeping an even-keel, and just overall seems like a down-to-earth good guy.

So Gardy, congrats again and hopefully you’ll be bringing home a new trophy in ’11…one with a few more flags on it! 

Options, Options

The other day, the Twins made a few “option” decisions on players:

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First, Jason Kubel was brought back for 2001.  Overall, he had a disappointing ’10 campaign after a breakout 2009, but the RBI’s really started coming in those final months, so there is hope he can bounce back.

 
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Also, Nick Punto was not offered an option, but could return at a lower salary. It would be strange to see Little Nicky go, as it would truly signal an end to that “pirahna” era, but I wouldn’t miss Gardy’s unwavering devotion to him one bit, even when we were desperate for some offense at times.  The presence of Matt Tolbert might make Nicky expendable.

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